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Saturday, 12 May 2007

Hate crimes

Has the president vetoed it yet? I'm not really up to speed on these things. Still, I've been thinking about why hate crimes deserve a harsher punishment. It's the sort of thing the president ought to understand, actually.

It's not because people deserve harsher penalties for "committing a crime and being homophobic at the same time." As one brought up in New Zealand's liberal-academic-middle-class, of course I understand the animosity people feel towards those who would deny civil liberties to others on trivial grounds such as race or sexual orientation. Still, the hatred that this can arouse in my own breast is just another indication of how easy it is for a child to hate those who break the moral ideals of her parents, and as such, should be resisted in favour of more logical thinking.

Look at it this way. Who deserves a harsher penalty? Someone who blows up a building, or someone who blows up a building under circumstances designed to strike fear into the hearts of those associated with something the building stands for?

I thought so.

Yes, that's right, folks, hate crimes are terrorism. A person who kills a man for being gay doesn't just commit a crime against that man and his family. A crime is also being committed against all gay people who live in that society, by informing them that they should be scared to be gay. A hate crime is simultaneously a crime and a threat -- just like terrorism.

So, should those who commit crimes of terror/hate face extra penalities? Should those who incite crimes of terror/hate also be punished? Of course they should.


C. L. Hanson said...

Wow, that's an interesting argument. I'll admit I've been wishy-washy and undecided in my opinions of hate crime legislation, but I'd never thought about the parallel with terrorism. Thanks for providing a new idea to contemplate!

Stentor said...

I used to be against hate crimes laws, until someone (IIRC Amanda Marcotte) explained it the way you did. I really wish people would use the threat/terrorism argument more, rather than the "it's OK to punish people for their thoughts because we distinguish murder and manslaughter" argument.

Alon Levy said...

It's a bit weird you're distinguishing the two interpretations... not that I disagree that the terrorism argument works better, but when I read the argument on Debitage, I was sure you were referring to the murder/manslaughter distinction.

jazzycat said...

Hate crimes quite simply make the motive for a crime a crime. Since the motive becomes a crime and the motive springs from thought and thought is expressed in words and writing, freedom of speech is very much threatened by this type of law.

While you may like the selective use of the current proposed law promoted by liberals, you should consider that such laws could have horrible consequences for political and policy dissent. There could come a day when such laws are used to stifle liberals speech and policies.

For example: speaking in favor of partial birth abortion = favoring killing babies = hate speech = promoting hate crimes = criminalized.

It is a two-edged sword and I am surprised that so many liberals are so eager to see a fix for there agenda items that they are missing the point here.

Punish crimes and do it severely, but not motives and thought. As I remember saying as a child, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me."

Alon Levy said...

It's hypothetical. There's a perfectly legitimate legal principle that precludes this slippery slope: free speech. Except in a few hypersensitive countries in Europe, it's legal to advocate genocide. What's illegal is to deliberately incite people, for example by egging on a mob and giving it specific information about the whereabouts of victims (think Rwanda).